You may have noticed that pressure can reveal character. When you or your team is faced with a deadline, then individuals will react. If a budget is tight or a crisis is emerging, traits and styles will emerge.
Another, more subtle behaviour can arise from under the pressure points. Team members want the leader to do just as they want – they want to be reassured that the leader will take their way out. So a firey character wants the leader to be firey. A calm character wants her leader to stay calm. A quick person wants the leader to speed up. A measured person wants the leader to slow down.
So now you can take some ideas to a dinner table in Jerusalem, one April evening. Pressure is mounting. Everyone around the table senses danger and can feel the trouble in the air. Each character’s heart will be revealed this night, each individual will discover what they are made of and what they want.
As the night unfolds, you may like to think about where you sit around this table. Which one is you?
The leader gets up and wraps a towel around his waist, having taken off his jacket. Kneeling, he washes the feet of his followers.
There are three reactions to the sequence of events which tumble out of the dark air. Peter, the strong fisherman, feels the need to show himself more humble, more unworthy, more boundaried or more – anything – than the rest. Peter wants to be a hero and he wants Jesus to be one, too – He will not. Judas, on the other hand, hasn’t played his hand at all. Lurking in his heart is a scheme. Judas wants war, he wants an uprising against the occupying powers and he will stop at nothing to provoke. Judas wants to be a zealot, a freedom fighter, and he wants Jesus to be one too – He will not.
So often the angel of learning lies in a small detail. Just between day and night or breathing in and out lies a moment of vision. Peter, the hero, knew his heroism would always leave him a little removed from vulnerability. So he asks John to find out about the impending betrayal. John is sitting so close to Jesus he can lean on him. John wants to be a man you can lean on (and soon he would be, for Mary) and he wanted Jesus to be such a man, too – and He will.
There is an old song called ‘Lean on Me’ which describes this dynamic as song writers do. It is John’s preferred mode of behaviour here and Peter knows that it is hallmarked by intimacy.
And in these cameos, these stories of pressure, characters are revealed. Peter the hero, Judas the zealot, John the recliner. Peter was heroic enough to build a church on, Judas was zealous enough to dismiss, John, Jesus trusted with this mother’s life.
Please don’t think that Peter, Judas and John only live in the past. They live in you. When you are under pressure, do you go to hero/heroine mode, do you become zealous and provocative or do you lean? Heroes end up as martyrs, zealots self-destruct, leaners last a long time.
Peter died a martyr in Rome, Judas died a traitor in Jerusalem, John died an old man in Ephesus (note Peter and John’s death is not recorded in the Bible).
Interlaced with all these stories is the leader, who they wanted to be just like them. While they were trying to shape him, he was showing them his shape. It looked like a foot-washer, a servant, a teacher, a master, a messenger commissioner, an inspirer of love. It looks like nothing they had ever seen, but everything they’d always wanted.
Here is the hard part. What do you want? Do you want to be a hero, a zealot, or a recliner? The chances are, you will be each one of these at some pressure point in your live. If you act heroically you may martyr yourself a little. If you act zealously, you may destroy yourself a little, if you recline, you will prolong your life.
Which one do you want your Jesus to be? If you listen in on the meal conversation, you will find a startling commandment given under pressure: ‘Love one another as I have loved you – everyone will know you are my followers if you love one another’.
It’s getting harder. Peter the hero, is to love John the recliner, John is to love Peter. But what about Judas the zealot, you can’t love him? Try looking for an exception in the command – it’s not there.
Now you can see how pressure reveals character. It reveals the hero in you, the zealot in you and the recliner in you. The leader asks for love. Jesus wants the hero, the zealot and the recliner to love one another – it’s preposterous but he is asking you to love as he loved. He washes all feet, including those belonging to Judas. When there is that kind of love inside you, it will spill out, then they will know where it came from, because you can’t get in anywhere else.
What kind of love do you want?
1 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
18 “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’
19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. 20 Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”
21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”
22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”
25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”
26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.
So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. 30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.
31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.
33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”
Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”
37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!
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